A proper home
Janet Turner Museum moves to new campus digs
“We’re about the same size, we’ve got the same hair, the same glasses.”
Catherine Sullivan, curator of Chico State’s Janet Turner Print Museum, was referring to a framed photograph of her and well-known, late Chico State art professor and accomplished printmaker Janet Turner.
In fact, said Sullivan, museum-goers will sometimes mistakenly call her “Janet” because of the likeness they see in the picture, an error that Sullivan seems to take in good-natured stride, and perhaps even with a little pride.
The picture was joining the museum’s collection of prints being moved from the its cozy, upstairs Laxson Auditorium location of the past 28 years to the museum’s new, more expansive, and more accessible digs on the first floor of the university’s Meriam Library building, in the newly renovated former Student Services offices.
The likeable, energetic Sullivan, sporting a fashionable short cut for her silver-gray hair, has been in charge of the Turner Museum for 16 years. As curator, she is responsible for overseeing a collection of fine-art prints numbering more than 3,000—etchings, lithographs, intaglios, serigraphs and relief prints from around the world—that for the most part belonged to the late Turner. Exceptions are those additions to the collection donated since Turner’s 1988 death.
One recent “lovely donation,” as Sullivan graciously termed it, came from Chico State professor emeritus Robert Ross and his wife, Sharon, and features wood engravings and etchings done by pre-eminent 19th-century American printmaker and painter Winslow Homer. The Homer pieces are the subject of the new museum space’s inaugural exhibition, which opened Monday (Jan. 26).
In addition to the recently acquired Homer pieces, the Turner collection—two-thirds of which has long been housed in a local warehouse because of space limitations in the museum’s Laxson location—boasts works by such very famous artists as Dalí, Goya, Hockney, Renoir and Picasso.
Approximately 200 prints in the collection are the work of Turner herself, who studied with pioneering American Regionalist painter and muralist Thomas Hart Benton, and who, according to Sullivan, “is now getting scholarly attention.”
Sullivan strolled happily through the museum’s new lobby while collections manager Adria Crossen, who graduated from Chico State with a degree in art history, and printmaking student-assistants Anthony Henshaw and Erin Kelly kept to their tasks of helping oversee the relocation. Sullivan pointed out the rows of installation-friendly, halogen track-lighting, the warm, sandy-beige walls and the distressed-cement floor, all artistic and functional features that Chico State interior design instructor David Thode helped design.
While Sullivan says she will miss the Turner’s former Laxson home, she is excited about the possibilities that the new, considerably larger space offers. For one, pieces stored in the warehouse can begin to be moved into the museum’s ample, on-site storage areas “by late [spring] semester or summer.”
“I have so much to pick from now,” said Sullivan, rather excitedly. “I can do so much more with themes. I’m thinking of doing [a show around] next year’s Book-in-Common.”
Pulling open a large metal drawer containing numerous Mylar-protected, colorful Inuit prints, Sullivan said, “These will go in the lobby when the new anthropology museum opens this fall,” referring to the upcoming move of Chico State’s Anthropology Museum into an adjacent part of the library building.
Sullivan is also excited about the museum’s next show, Bare, which opens in March following the Homer show, and focuses on images of women.
“After Homer, who makes everybody look peaceful and calm, we’ll have angry, naked women,” said Sullivan.
“Well, they won’t all be naked,” she added, smiling. “But they’ll be expressive …”